v France, 1986 World Cup Semi-Final
Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, 25.06.1986
Brehme 9., Völler 89. / –
In what was a repeat of the classic 1982 semi-final in Spain, Germany lined up against a quality French team that had been victorious in the European Championship on home soil two years earlier. Many of the French players were at their peak, and were high on confidence after their rousing quarter-final triumph over a much-fêted Brazilian side; it was pretty clear from the off that les Bleus were favourites to reach what would have been their first World Cup Final.
For Germany however it was simply a case of “been there, done that” – with just one more solid performance separating Beckenbauer’s men from a place in their fifth World Cup Final. They had kept clean sheets in both knockout games, and there was no reason why this would have had to change.
What was essentially the same team as that which lined up against Mexico was named in the semi-final starting line-up, the only real complication being the unavailability of the suspended and up to that point ever-present Thomas Berthold. Beckenbauer retained Ditmar Jakobs as sweeper, and reverted to a four-man defensive line by moving Andreas Brehme out of midfield to his more customary position at left-back. This left a three-man midfield, with Wolfgang Rolff filling Berthold’s position alongside Matthäus and Magath. Kalle Rummenigge and Klaus Allofs were the front men, as Rudi Völler was once again left on the bench.
After a somewhat cagey opening, Germany found themselves with a free-kick just outside the area after Rummenigge had been tripped by Manuel Amoros; there were a number of candidates to take the kick – Matthäus, Rummenigge, Magath – but left-back Andreas Brehme stepped up. Brehme’s shot was on target, but had clearly not been struck with enough venom to beat French ‘keeper Joël Bats – or so everybody thought until the ball bounced awkwardly and seemed to squirm under Bats’ body – and into the back of the net.
With the Germans a goal up so early in the match, the onus was clearly on the French to make the running in search of an equaliser. They had managed this four years earlier in Seville when a Michel Platini penalty had cancelled out Pierre Littbarski’s early long-range strike for the Nationalmannschaft, but this time the French could not unlock the German defence, which was as solid and organised as it had been in the games against both Morocco and Mexico. Platini was excellently marshalled by Wolfgang Rolff, the dynamic French midfielders were closed down at every opportunity, and once again the Germans had got their tactics just right.
While Germany were prepared to sit back and attack on the counter, the French continually surged forward towards Toni Schumacher’s goal – only to be thwarted either by the 1. FC Köln Torhuter or their own off-key finishing. They did actually manage to put the ball in the net on one occasion, only to see the linesman flag for offside. A final surge by Les Bleues in the dying minutes saw yet another scuffed shot safely gathered by Schumacher, who then flung the ball forward to the unmarked Klaus Allofs on the left. As the French defenders desperately charged back, Allofs lifted the ball over the last man for substitute Rudi Völler, who cleanly collected the pass and lobbed the advancing Bats before neatly trapping the ball and passing it into the empty net. 2-0.
Looking at the match one could argue that the French were unlucky and that the 2-0 scoreline slightly flattered Beckenbauer’s team – but once again Germany had ticked all the boxes and placed their professional stamp on the game. Unlike the semi-final in Seville four years earlier, there would be no controversy to mar the event and nobody could dispute the fact that Germany deserved their place in the final; it was pretty clear that the better team on the day had won. Even so, the old stereotypes stuck: while the fantastic and flamboyant French had once again bottled it when it really mattered, the relentless German machine continued to play on their opponents’ inferiority complex and stifle them into submission. Such assertions were rebutted by Schumacher himself:
“I heard a great deal of talk about the French team’s psychological block in the face of the ‘brutal Germans’. Stuff and nonsense! Rubbish like this has little to do with sport, but perhaps a lot more to do with the inability of hacks and politicians on either side of the Rhine to come to terms with the past. Sport is being used as a screen on which old clichés and prejudices are projected … We won in Seville because the French underestimated us after establishing their 3-1 lead. We won in Mexico because we adopted the right tactics: harrying our opponents, in order to put them off their stride from early on in the match, and not giving them room to play.” 
How this fairly ordinary German team managed to make it to the final has long been touted as something of a mystery – the likes of France, Brazil and Spain had found themselves flying home, aber die Deutschen waren dabei. Unlike the greats of the 1970s, this side was less about style and more about steel: it was, in essence, the archetypal “German” side of popular myth – one that was greater than sum of its parts, a squad that somehow, from somewhere, managed to dig deep enough when it was required.
After what had been a very ordinary start to the tournament, Franz Beckenbauer’s side were in their second successive World Cup Final. Facing them would be 1978 winners Argentina, and their talismanic leader Diego Maradona.
Germany FR: Schumacher – Jakobs – Brehme, Eder, Förster, Briegel – Matthäus, Rolff, Magath – Rummenigge (c) (57. Völler), Allofs
France: Bats – Ayache, Battiston, Bossis, Amoros – Tigana, Giresse (72. Vercruysse), Platini, Fernández – Stopyra, Bellone (66. Xuereb)
Referee: Luigi Agnolin (Italy)
Assistants: Zoran Petrović (Yugoslavia), Lajos Németh (Hungary)
Yellow Cards: Fernández / Magath
Red Cards: – / –